City Gossip

McGonagall’s barometer is rising rapidly, it’s very nearly “set fair,” and promises to go higher even than that at no distant day. His new book is in the “press,” and when it comes out of that receptacle it will be a crowning glory, and an undisguised blessing that will help to fill the Poet’s own kitchen press. So eagerly is the new volume sought after, that ardent admirers are begging the printer for a glance at the proof sheets only for a few minutes. There are are some things in that work which will take the world by storm. Two of them are “pomes.” historical and descriptive, of the battles of Sheriffmuir and Culloden. Grand beyond compare are these new efforts of the poet’s genius. “Shirramuir” has been sung over and over again, but Culloden has never had the honour of being immortalised in verse.

Tom Campbell writes some melodramatic superstitious stuff about Lochiel, but a real description and historical account of that great event has been left for McGonagall, and he has “gone and been and done it” to the life and the letter. These two works alone, which, by the way, are entirely new, will be found more than worth all the money. But that is not all. He has just risen from the the composition of another grand historical epic on the “Execution of Montrose,” which is going for the “Destroying Angel.”

Over the sea, over the sea, comes showering hearty congratulations to the poet’s door. Scarce a post now but what brings him some billet brimful of good news. Would that there were more cheques, bills of exchange, or pound notes in them, but such things are to come in the sweet by and by. From Zululand—that classic region where Cetewayo ruled the roost till he was roasted out by the redcoats—there came a letter to the “Poet” one day lately, a letter which any man might be proud to receive. Comment on it would be worse than useless, and so here it is; it is old enough to speak for itself.

The Royal Scots, Fort Curtis Eokowe,
Zululand, 26th January 1891.

Poet McGonagall—I received a copy of your poems recently from home, and take the first opportunity of congratulating you on the production of such a splendid work. Your poems show a taste not to be met with in many of the writings of the present age, and one can only wonder how you could have produced such a selection of poems, commencing as you did at such a late stage in life. I lent your book to a large number of my friends in the regiment who hail both from England and Scotland, and they one and all assert that it surpasses, in tone and clearness of expression, any of the writings of the so-called “poets” of the present day. l am confident your book would command an extraordinary sale if you arranged for its being sent out to the Cape or Natal Colonies, wherein so many well known men reside who hail from the “land o’ cakes.” In Kimberley your work extensively read and highly appreciated, but it is mainly obtained from friends at home, and not from local publishers. Trusting you may enjoy many years of excellent health, so as you can give us yet another proof of your poetical abilities, I remain, your sincere wellwisher.

Fred. Rollo,
1st Royal Scots

Another piece of good luck came his way the other week. The Dennistoun Literary Club, one of the learned institutes of Glasgow, invited him to give one of his unique entertainments. He accepted the invitation, and packed up his “properties,” sword, kilt, bonnet, and feather, and took the train for the city of St Mungo. He was treated like a gentleman. The secretary met him at the station, and conducted him to his hotel at the Broomielaw, and afterwards drove him in a cab to the place of meeting in Duke Street. The club met in their own room in the rear of a Duke Street “pub.” Upwards of forty young blades, all literary and dramatic enthusiasts, assembled, and the “Dundee Poet” met with a regular ovation.

For a couple of hours he performed before the “boys,” giving all his old pieces—”The Rattling Boy,” “Bannockburn,” “The Tay Bridge,” and other selections from his own works, with favourite scenes from Willie Shakespeare, his great rival. The audience declared that as an exponent of “Will” Ormond Tearle was nowhere when compared with McGonagall. The members of the club shook the walls of the building with thunders of applause, called McGonagall the “Grand Old Man,” and carried him in triumph shoulder high after the meeting broke up. Better than all that, he was escorted to his hotel by the Committee, and had his bill and railway fare paid, and was sent home to Dundee one pound sterling richer than when be left the city. What you think of that, you hard-hearted, scoffing, miserable jute spinners? Will you never think shame for your hard-hearted neglect to poor McGonagall?

Weekly News, 7th March 1891

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